gay rights

Azusa Pacific, doctrine and sex, again: Los Angeles Times acts as cheerleader for one side

Azusa Pacific, doctrine and sex, again: Los Angeles Times acts as cheerleader for one side

After 15 years of work here at GetReligion, it’s easy to describe the question that I hear more than any other when I get into discussions with readers of the blog.

The question: Do you ever get frustrated having to write posts about the same issues in mainstream news, over and over, criticizing the same errors — noting the same holes, the same biases, the same “religion ghosts”?

The answer: Yes, it’s frustrating. However, when we see problems over and over, that means we have to write about them. The repetition shows that the problem is real and is not going away.

That brings me to a new Los Angeles Times story about the ongoing LGBTQ debates at Azusa Pacific University, an evangelical college in greater LA. Our own Julia Duin wrote about some of the early coverage in post the other day. Please check that out.

The new Times piece is the same song, all over again. Frankly, this is one of the most slanted stories I have seen in a mainstream publication in a long time. So here we go — again.

The liberal evangelical side of this equation is covered in depth, as it should be. But if you are looking for student voices, faculty voices, trustee voices on the traditional side of this doctrinal debate, you need to look somewhere else. Let’s walk through the overture of the piece.

On a recent fall day, a group of protesters gathered in a university courtyard, many holding rainbow flags. About 100 students and faculty members were fighting for LGBTQ rights on campus.

With a crowd this size, it might have been possible to get a specific figure. However, let me note that APU has about 5,600 students.

This does not mean that a small crowd of this kind is not important. It takes guts to protest your own school when it is a private school that, when you enrolled, you were told upfront the doctrinal standards that would frame campus life. We are talking about a voluntary association, a private school that no one has to attend. People choose to study there, work there, teach there.

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Can a new Amazon HQ liberalize a devout, red-state America? The Washington Post weighs in

Can a new Amazon HQ liberalize a devout, red-state America? The Washington Post weighs in

It has been fun following Amazon’s search for a new headquarters city in the past few months. 

On Saturday, while waiting for my kid’s soccer game to finish, I dashed into the local (Seattle suburb) Starbucks for a quick pickup when what should I see on the front page of the Seattle Times, but a piece by the Washington Post: “The unspoken factor in Amazon’s search for a new home: Jeff Bezo’s support for gay rights.”

Well, you heard it here first.

As tmatt suggested in January, Amazon may use its massive influence to persuade certain red-state cities to soften up their stance on certain culture wars issues (ie transgender people and public restroom access) to be awarded the title of HQ2. I wrote a similar post in February after the list of the 20 finalist cities was published. And you know what? We were right.

What’s interesting in this latest installment of the Amazon-needs-a-new-home saga is that the religious element is front and center:

When Amazon executives recently toured the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one of 20 finalists for a second company headquarters, local officials touted its growing workforce and low taxes as perfectly suited to accommodate 50,000 planned Amazon jobs.

But the local team also brought an unexpected guest: the Rev. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, pastor of a predominantly gay megachurch in Dallas. He impressed upon the Amazon representatives how inclusive and welcoming the community has been to him, his husband and the 4,000 congregants at his church, according to people familiar with the meeting.

In the high-stakes contest to become Amazon’s new location, it may have been a shrewd move. Although the company’s search materials don’t make it explicit, Amazon has quietly made rights for and acceptance of gay and transgender people part of its criteria in choosing a second headquarters, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely.

Cazares-Thomas pastors Cathedral of Hope, a United Church of Christ congregation, for those of you interested in such fact-driven religious details.

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WPost story on small-town gay activist vs. local Baptists raises more questions than answers

WPost story on small-town gay activist vs. local Baptists raises more questions than answers

There are times when I run across a very well-written piece that makes a poignant point and communicates an effective message. Yet, at the same time, there’s this uneasiness.

Such is a piece out this week in the Washington Post Magazine. With a headline that read “The Last Frontier for Gay Rights: A powerful liberal activist, a rural conservative town and a debate that won’t end,” it’s about a small North Carolina town.

I’ve written some 15 stories for the same magazine for the Post’s Style section, most of them profile or long-form narratives like this one. You may be familiar with the story I did last November for the magazine about Paula White, spiritual advisor to Donald Trump. So, I know how it takes months of hard work to produce these pieces and it sounds as though writer Tiffany Stanley spent a similar amount of time working on this article.

With few exceptions, the magazine has stuck to stories with relevance inside the Beltway. Since the residents of this western North Carolina county have nothing to do with Washington, D.C., I'm guessing the magazine, which got a new editor last year, is expanding its reach. There's a lot here, so please stick with me:

Word spread fast through the county that fall. Comments streamed across Facebook and in the halls of the high school and through the pews of churches: There was a gay-straight alliance starting up at Alexander Central High. It would be known as the P.R.I.D.E. Club: People Respecting Individuality, Diversity and Equality. Its detailed acronym notwithstanding, theories about it swirled.
There were rumors that the school would have “transgender restrooms,” or that a “homosexual-based curriculum” would be used in health and physical education classes. Some community members were upset about the school district’s lack of communication. A woman wrote in to the town newspaper: “It is heartbreakingly sad that our morals have come to this.”
The sense of siege extended to adults — on all sides of the controversy. Robbin Isenhour-Stewart, an art teacher and the club’s co-adviser, said she received “biblical hate messages” taped to her classroom door. The Rev. Phil Addison, a Southern Baptist minister, said he found trash on his lawn and his mailbox kept getting knocked down; he suspected it had to do with his public criticisms of the club. “I don’t know that it was them,” he told me, “but if not, it was a huge coincidence.” David Odom, a school board member, said his daughter came home asking why he was taking the Bible out of schools.

We hear next about a school board meeting packed with church members because their pastors asked them to attend. Also at the meeting was:

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Why are some journalists head-scratching over, well, a Catholic bishop's Catholicism?

Why are some journalists head-scratching over, well, a Catholic bishop's Catholicism?

If there's anything essential to being a leader in a religious organization, surely it is that with such leadership comes responsibility for promoting the doctrines of said organization.

Generally, if one does this, it's a sign of compliance with the house rules or, more properly, doctrines. But "generally," these days, doesn't seem to cover Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, who for seven years has led the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, which city happens to be the state capitol.

While a supporter of Pope Francis, it appears that the bishop is not willing to embrace the media's interpretation of the "Who am I to judge" statement of the current pontiff that has commanded so much ink in recent years. Indeed, Paprocki, who offered prayers of exorcism when Illinois enacted legislation sanctioning same-sex marriage, must have known his most recent pronouncements on the subject of marriage would raise hackles.

They did, and in turn the reporting on Paprocki's statement raises some interesting journalism questions. For example, when reading these stories try to find two crucial words -- "Catechism" and "Confession."

The Washington Post, aggregating other reports, summarizes the issue:

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Ill., is calling on priests there to deny Holy Communion and even funeral rites to people in same-sex unions unless they show “some signs of repentance” for their relationships before death.
The decree by Bishop Thomas Paprocki also said that people “living publicly” in same-sex marriages may not receive the sacrament of confirmation or be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a process by which many converts become Catholic, preparing them for baptism and confirmation.

Wading into the story is a Rome-based writer for The Daily Beast, who noted Paprocki's decree affects not only the adults in a given household, but also:

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Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Will new adoption laws mean more or fewer kids get permanent homes?

Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Will new adoption laws mean more or fewer kids get permanent homes?

The Associated Press claims to abhor bias, but when it comes to reporting on clashes between gay rights and religious freedom, the global wire service often slants its coverage toward the LGBTQ side.

That's particularly true when the byline atop the story belongs to David Crary, a New York-based AP national writer who covers social issues. Think Kellerism — reporting in which certain "settled" matters are declared unworthy of balanced coverage.

With all of the above in mind, AP's — and Crary's — treatment of new adoption laws protecting faith-based providers in Texas and South Dakota should surprise no one paying attention: 

With tens of thousands of children lingering in foster care across the United States, awaiting adoption, Illinois schoolteachers Kevin Neubert and Jim Gorey did their bit. What began with their offer to briefly care for a newborn foster child evolved within a few years into the adoption of that little boy and all four of his older siblings who also were in foster care.
The story of their two-dad, five-kid family exemplifies the potential for same-sex couples to help ease the perennial shortfall of adoptive homes for foster children. Yet even as more gays and lesbians adopt, some politicians seek to protect faith-based adoption agencies that object to placing children in such families.
Sweeping new measures in Texas and South Dakota allow state-funded agencies to refuse to place children with unmarried or gay prospective parents because of religious objections. A newly introduced bill in Congress would extend such provisions nationwide.

A fair, full treatment of the subject matter would approach the laws impartially. Such coverage would give both supporters and opponents an opportunity to make their best case. It would seek advocate and expert insight — not to mention relevant numerical data — into whether the measures will result in more or fewer children receiving permanent homes.

But AP approaches the story almost entirely from the perspective of gay parents. The wire service (Crary specifically) seems uninterested in questioning whether protecting the sincere religious beliefs of faith-based foster and adoption providers actually will allow more children to find homes. 

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Surprise! New York Times zooms past hyper-obvious religion angle in Gorsuch-and-gay-rights story

Surprise! New York Times zooms past hyper-obvious religion angle in Gorsuch-and-gay-rights story

If the conventional analysis is to be believed, a key reason so many white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump last November 8 was concern over who'd get the ninth seat on the Supreme Court. And, any other seats opening up over the next four (or even eight) years.

For many, if not most, of these voters, the nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver would appear to have been cause for celebration. He takes an "originalist" view of the Constitution, just like the late jurist he would replace, Justice Antonin Scalia.

My co-GetReligionista Julia Duin has written about the dearth of coverage of Judge Gorsuch's faith, but, much like a bad meal of gas-station sushi, the problem keeps coming up. And ho better to belch forward another glaring omission than The New York Times, where the top editor breezily admits "we don't get the role of religion in people's lives," and moves on to the next thing?

This time, the "we-don't-get-the-role-of-religion" thing becomes glaringly obvious.

The Times is taking a look at one of the most contentious faith-based issues of the 21st century, that of the definition of marriage and how that definition will fare with Judge Gorsuch on the high court. "Gorsuch Not Easy to Pigeonhole on Gay Rights, Friends Say," reads the headline. From the story:

Democrats and their progressive allies are marching in lock step to oppose Judge Gorsuch, whose record they find deeply troubling, and gay pundits are painting him as a homophobe. But interviews with his friends -- both gay and straight -- and legal experts across the political spectrum suggest that on gay issues, at least, he is not so easy to pigeonhole.

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Up To No Good: Mississippi religious liberty law is next in LGBT battles

Up To No Good: Mississippi religious liberty law is next in LGBT battles

Those misbehavin' Mississippians didn’t learn from the media thrashing of Georgia and North Carolina. When the Magnolia State started work on its version of a religious liberty bill, it drew fire faster than you could say "Incoming!"

We're beginning to see a standard template for such articles: corporate threats, lopsided sourcing, pressure on the governor, dire warnings of threats to freedom, marginalizing of most clergy voices. (Usually the template also includes sarcasm quotes around "religious freedom," but for some reason not this time).

Like efforts in several other states, the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act is meant to shield people of faith from being sued or prosecuted for not wanting to sanction same-sex relationships, such as photographing a gay wedding.  Mississippi goes further than other states, though: It would also allow other exemptions, such as fostering children or licensing gay marriages.

MSNBC wastes little time framing the story the "right" way:

The Mississippi Senate voted Wednesday evening to pass a religious freedom bill which some say could have sweeping anti-LGBT repercussions for the United States.
The Republican-dominated Senate voted 31-17 to pass the controversial bill, called the "Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act."
The legislation says that businesses, social workers and public employees cannot be punished for denying services based on the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman or that "sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage." It also protects individuals who believe gender is determined at birth.

It would be hard to put more loaded terms at the top of this story:

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Media gag order: In Georgia religious liberty flap, one side is played up, the other shouted down

Media gag order: In Georgia religious liberty flap, one side is played up, the other shouted down

So Georgia passed their hotly debated religious freedom bill, allowing faith-based objections to serving gays. What could be stronger than the voice of the people?

At least two things: Pro sports magnates and mainstream media. Together, they're shouting down the opposition in a drive to get Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill.

Team associations, like the NFL and NCAA, threaten boycotts. Team owners preach equality and tolerance. Religious voices -- except for one exception, which we'll mention later -- essentially get a gag order.

Typical for much of the coverage is yesterday's Washington Post story:

The NFL issued a stern warning Friday to the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta, a reminder that if a "religious liberty" bill is signed into law by the governor, it could affect whether the city is chosen to host a Super Bowl.
The bill states that, with few exceptions, the government may not "substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a law, rule, regulation, ordinance or resolution of general applicability." It would also protect faith-based groups from penalties if, in the absence of contracts, they refuse to provide "social, educational or charitable services that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief." Those groups would also be protected if they chose not to hire an employee whose religious beliefs are in contrast with the organization’s.
The purpose of the bill, which has gone from the state legislature to the governor, is, according to one legislator, to provide a response to the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. The NFL joined hundreds of businesses in Georgia that see it as discriminatory.
"NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites."

The Post goes on like that for 1,200 words. It adds rebukes from the NCAA and from Atlanta teams the Hawks, the Braves and the Falcons. They all recite similar scripts about tolerance, equality, diversity and welcoming everyone.

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There he goes again? Pope Francis sends 'apostolic blessing' to gay writer and her family

There he goes again? Pope Francis sends 'apostolic blessing' to gay writer and her family

At various times and in many different ways, priests bless things.

Most notably, at the end of a liturgy, the priest blesses the whole congregation -- pretty much no matter who is out there in the pews or what these people may or may not have done. Priests have been known to entire bless crowds at other public events.

It's a blessing. Priests give out lots of them. So does the pope, come to think of it..

Most importantly, it's not the moment at the end of Confession when, after hearing the penitent confess his or her sins, the priest extends his hand over the person's head and says:

ABSOLUTION
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
The penitent answers: Amen.

This brings us to yet another one of those moments when Pope Francis takes an action that shocks people in the mainstream media, even though it is not all that shocking to people who are active in the Catholic Church.

Wait, is The Daily Beast mainstream media? Well, this particular story is pretty straightforward news, so let's go for it since it has the key information in one chunk. We'll jump in at the summary material:

The latest in a long list of dust-ups came this week when Francis apparently gave his blessing to Francesca Pardi, a children’s book author who happens to be lesbian and who has a title on the list of banned books in the Venice school district that has sparked a feud between Venice mayor Luigi Bugnaro and the likes of Elton John. 

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